There’s a new sheriff in town – or rather, a new Deputy K9. Batman, a Pit Bull mix who was pulled from Austin Animal Center by Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) in April 2015, recently graduated from training at Universal K9 to become a drug detection dog for the Lancaster Independent School District (Lancaster ISD).
Batman is now the sixth dog to graduate from APA! with Universal K9 training to go on to become a working dog in a police department. All six dogs, including Batman, are Pit Bull-type dogs.
Universal K9 is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that focuses on training shelter dogs to become working dogs for law enforcement.
“Donating to Universal K9‘s program will help save the lives of countless dogs and provide law enforcement the help they need to protect our communities without…tax payer money. A specially bred dog from overseas costs between $15,000 to $20,000 depending on the amount of training. [Universal K9’s] program is a no brainer and solves multiple problems – saves a dog, helps law enforcement, [and] saves tax payers’ money.”
When asked if he had any personal goals for Universal K9, Brad Croft, Batman’s trainer and the founder of Universal K9, told BarkPost:
“[W]e plan to place a Pit Bull in every state[,] even the ones with BSL[,] and hopefully squash the stigma once and for all!”
Batman is joining a growing number of rescued Pit Bull-type dogs who are now being sought by police departments. Recently, Kiah, a Pit Bull, joined the Poughkeepsie Police Department where she will specialize in searching for missing persons as well as drug detection.
Justin Bruzgul, a Poughkeepsie police officer, watches Kiah perform on an obstacle course
Traditionally, K9 officers have included other breeds of dogs, such as German Shepherds. While “Pit Bull” is not an actual breed such as German Shepherds, the term is used to refer to dogs who either have a core breed, such as American Staffordshire Terrier or American Pit Bull Terrier, or a dog who shares physical similarities to these core breeds. Now, dogs known as “Pit Bulls” are getting their turn to show their abilities as working dogs. As Brad shared with BarkPost:
“Pit Bulls are good dogs that have the same abilities as any other dog. It does not take a German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Labrador or Dutch Shepherd to do police work. All it takes is a dog that has the drive, confidence and will to complete a task.”
We here at BarkPost were curious to know what sets a dog apart and makes APA! believe they could be a good candidate for Universal K9 training. As it turns out, it’s all about toy drive. Yes, that’s correct– a dog who really, really loves toys is the kind who will catch the eye of Mike Kaviani, APA!’s Dog Behavior Program Manager.
Mike told BarkPost:
“The dogs that are selected for [Universal K9] almost always display their talents organically without us even needing to formally evaluate them. That being said, before contacting Brad about any specific dogs, we do make sure to put each dog through the paces to make sure their toy-drive and persistence is generalized and consistent in both indoor and outdoor settings with a variety of distractions present.”
And the toy drive is strong in this one. Mike recounted one of his favorite stories of Batman to BarkPost:
“Batman regularly attended Play Groups with us at APA!, and on several occasions…I would turn around to find him on top of our table rummaging through our bucket where we keep our [Play Group] supplies. He’d steal whatever interesting ‘treasure’ he could find and would then turn it into a big game of ‘keep away’ in the yard, both from us and the other dogs. It wasn’t long after this that we picked up the phone and called Brad about a new candidate for him.”
So what exactly will Deputy K9 Batman’s duties be now that he’s a part of law enforcement? Batman will assist Lancaster ISD with narcotic searches by searching for drugs throughout the school system and of course, serving as an ambassador for other shelter and Pit Bull-type dogs.
Batman’s work is of great importance, but that’s not to say that this newly-minted Deputy doesn’t have his quirks. Brad shared some of his favorite memories of training with Batman with BarkPost.
“[Batman] was an eccentric dog as he did not like to drink from water bowls that other dogs drank out of and did not like to get his feet wet. He would crack me up!”
As one may guess, it takes more than a willing trainer to make dogs such as Batman a successful working dog. Deputy K9 Batman’s training was made possible by a grant from Animal Farm Foundation, a not-for-profit that “has been working nationally to secure equal treatment and opportunity for ‘Pit Bull’ dogs since 1985.” To help support Animal Farm Foundation’s mission and grant program like the one that made Batman’s training possible, you can donate here.
Austin Pets Alive!, the shelter who pulled Batman in Spring 2015, also sees their dogs benefit from donations. APA!’s Dog Behavior Program “provides the dogs in APA!’s care all available resources to enhance their quality of life and prepare them for life outside of APA!” Donations to APA to support their enriching and important work for dogs can be given here.
The effects of APA!’s commitment to animals is evident in dogs like Batman.
“Batman is just another example of how truly all dogs are individuals, and any dog, regardless of breed or appearance, can do amazing things…. Batman is evidence of how dogs in shelters are no less talented, intelligent, or worthy of our trust and commitment than other dogs.”
True to what many of us know, Batman is a crime-fighter, only this time he’s a little furrier.